Hylocereus costaricensis (F.A.C.Weber) Britton & Rose
Costa Rica Nightblooming Cactus, Costa Rican Pitahaya, Costa Rican Dragon Fruit, Red-fleshed Pitaya, Purple Pitaya, Purple Dragon Fruit, Strawberry Pear Cactus
Cereus costaricensis, Cereus trigonus var. costaricensis
Hylocereus costaricensis is an intriguing cactus for a variety of reasons. Even though it is ground-dwelling, the slender, leafless stems flop and clamber as if a vine gaining support from tree trunks, rocks, or walls. It is renowned for its large, white, nocturnal flowers that are very short-lived. The flowers are up to 12 inches (30 cm) long with equal diameter. The leathery, fleshy stems have three ribs, each topped with tiny clusters of short spines. There are no leaves, but instead, photosynthesis occurs in the green stems.
In summer, large flower buds arise on the stems. Each opens at night and remains open for a few hours, releasing perfume to attract bat pollinators. The pale yellow-green bud leaves fold back and look like petals surrounding the true white petals. The edible fruits, called Pitaya or Strawberry Pear, that follow weeks later are oval, vibrant red with purple pulp and tiny black seeds.
USDA hardiness zones 10a to 11b: from 30 °F (−1.1 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).
How to Grow and Care
Like most cacti, Cereus are fairly low-maintenance and hardy. Ensure they receive enough water without becoming waterlogged, especially during the summer, and fertilize them for best results. If the roots have become black or overly soft, the cactus could be experiencing root rot. Cut away the affected parts and replant. Most gardeners interested in cacti should be able to cultivate these without much problem.
It may become necessary to repot your Cereus if it outgrows its container. If so, make sure the soil is dry, and then remove the pot. Knock away old soil and prune away any rotted or dead roots, then replace it in a new pot and backfill with new soil. Make sure not to overwater cacti planted in new pots, as this can lead to root rot. It should be left dry for about a week and then watered lightly.
These cacti propagate quite easily from cuttings. Simply sever a branch and replant in moist, well-drained soil.
Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Cereus.
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